NTSB Identification: LAX96FA226.
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Accident occurred Friday, June 07, 1996 in GOLETA, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/23/1997
Aircraft: Piper PA-32R-300, registration: N4303X
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Two instrument-rated pilots departed for a planned 24-mile instrument flight. About 5 minutes after takeoff, one of the pilots contacted the radar controller and requested an instrument landing clearance. The controller cleared the pilot for an ILS runway 7 approach to Santa Barbara. When the airplane was about 1 mile west of the final approach fix, it had descended to 1,500 feet. The published glide slope altitude for the fix was 1,774 feet. At 1042, as the airplane was still inbound toward the final approach fix, it reversed course, then it proceeded in a westerly and then a northerly direction. Radar data showed that the airplane then descend through 1,100 feet on a northeasterly heading. A low altitude alert alarm sounded in the ATC control room, and radar contact was lost. (Note: the pilots had not reported any abnormal condition with the airplane or equipment, nor was a safety advisory (alert) transmitted to the airplane.) A witness observed that the airplane came out of clouds in a steep descent and impacted the water at a high rate of speed. He estimated the visibility was 2 miles in fog. Wreckage was recovered, and no mechanical malfunction was found. A review of the pilots' logbooks and airplane utilization records revealed that neither pilot met the FAA instrument flight currency requirements.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

failure of the flying pilot to maintain control of the airplane, due to spatial disorientation, which resulted in an uncontrolled descent and collision with the water. Factors relating to the accident were: the lack of recent instrument experience by the flying pilot and the lack of monitoring (and/or remedial action) by the other pilot.

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